Technocrats have been lining up in a virtual line by the thousands to get their hands on the first release of Google Glass. Google started shipping the much anticipated computing spectacles to developers, industry analysts and early technology adopters a few weeks back. But early feedback on the gadget has been less than positive.
Google Glass, an early entrant to the highly touted “wearable technology” market, is arguably more bleeding edge than other wearable technologies such as the wrist bands that simply monitor body vital signs and push data to the cloud to be analyzed. Google’s specialized glasses can accept voice commands, take pictures, record video and even offer directions on-command and hands-free.
If you haven’t seen it yet, as soon as you finish reading, go watch the now viral Saturday Night Live spoof. It pokes fun at a Google Glass user that is incessantly repeating commands and making erratic head gestures to get Glass to work — both the user and product come off as quirky and socially awkward.
Other reviews cited issues with its display, which can be seen only by one eye and purportedly can cause dizziness or nausea. Some reviewers have harped on the limited app availability and the steep price (Google Glass Explorer Edition is $1,500). Also noted in reviews was the limiting three-hour battery life for a technology that is supposed to be worn all day. Finally, there has been a chorus of concerns about privacy (i.e.,recording people without their knowledge) and, generally, that Glass can be a social distraction.
Even with the initial baggage that Google Glass is carrying, it’s still an impressive start to what will no doubt be a multi-billion dollar wearable computing market. In fact, there are an infinite number of potential Glass apps, and after some iterations, I believe the core concept will have adoption similar to that of smart mobile devices — changing lives and business along the way.
If that happens, Glass will be vindicated and seen as a ground-breaking technology that was built when others couldn’t see the opportunity or lacked the fortitude to embark on such a project. You see, Google is one of the rare companies with deep pockets and a social conscience that dares to dream. In fact, Google’s Project X Lab is an incubator for where the company’s elite engineers work on tough problems that most would say are impossible or just too difficult to solve.
Google’s “moonshot” projects within the Lab are reminiscent of John F. Kennedy’s proclamation in 1961 that the United States would send a man to the moon by the end of the decade — knowing full well that the technology to do so was far from certain.
Google has set many big, hairy, audacious goals within their Project X Lab. Take the self-driving car, which was initially ridiculed and maligned, that has now covered over 300,000 miles without an accident and is permitted for operation in Nevada, Florida and California (for testing purposes) today. Why build a self-driving car? Because Google can…and to make the lives of the visually impaired or others with curtailing handicaps gain a level of independence that once seemed completely out of the realm of possibility.
I haven’t had my hands on Google Glass yet, and when I do, I won’t be looking for the flaws already reported. I prefer to look at the Glass half full and the possibilities of this nascent market.
Raj Sabhlok is the president of Zoho Corp., which is the parent company of Zoho.com and ManageEngine. Follow him @rajsabhlok.